0512 – be a player, not a spectator

Let me try and summarize what I’ve been rambling about in the past few vomits.

A quote I’ve been ruminating on is “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.” I’m still not clear about whether I’m a winner or a loser. [1] I think for the most part, for the most of my life, I’ve been a loser who’s gotten particularly GOOD at playing the “let’s talk about winners” game.

How do winners win? There are probably a few different ways, but there are two on my mind right now:

1. Think for themselves from first principles
2. Study other winners

The problem with number 2 is, when you set out to study winners, you’re going to find yourself surrounded by losers who are also very interested in discussing winners. But they’re not actually interested in winning themselves. They’re never going to get into the arena. They’re just enjoying the show from the stands.

As I write this, I realize the “simple” solution to the conundrum: ACTION. The difference between winners and losers isn’t actually where or how they get their information [2], what what they do with it. It’s action that makes the difference. The scary thing about defining yourself as a “student of winners” is that you might actually be a loser and not realize it. You’re a loser until you start winning. And if you haven’t won anything yet (again, however you choose to define what winning is), then you’re a non-player. Non-starter. Inconsequential. Irrelevant.

So if you want to become a winner, you have to get on stage. Get into the arena. Take action. Over and over again.

So yeah, maybe “winners” and “losers” are loaded terms. Maybe it’s better to frame it as “players” and “spectators”. Players focus on winning. Spectators focus on players. So the question is, are you a player or a spectator? That becomes a lot simpler– if you’re playing, you’re a player. If you’re not playing, you’re a spectator– no matter how much theory or wisdom or knowledge you might think you have accumulated. If you don’t have skin in the game, you’re not a player. The moment you stop playing, you’re a spectator.

It can’t be that simple, can it? There must be more. And yes, I think there is. Once you’ve learned to play a particular game well, you can fall into a certain comfortable pattern where you just push that button over and over again. You’re still “playing” but you’re just going through the motions. It gets unsatisfying, even frustrating. You actually have room for growth but you’re stagnating. You thought you’d reward yourself with some rest, and take it easy. And sure, rest is important for recovery. But rest too much or take it easy for too long and you start slipping into becoming a ‘spectator’ again. You’re going through the motions, so you’re not actively playing. You’re just running on autopilot.

The analogy breaks down a little, because it’s not like there’s 1 clean division between players and spectators. It’s an infinitely recursive game, where each level of players can either focus on getting to the next level, or coast along and spectate the higher level players (or whatever random nonsense is going on in the world that they aren’t directly involved in).

To revisit the ideas about “feel good about doing more good stuff instead of feeling bad about what bad stuff you’re doing”– some spectating is inevitable. We’re all a part of the greatest show in the known universe, and we’re simultaneously observers and participants. We can’t help but notice what’s going on around us, and we can’t help but think some thoughts about them. The point isn’t to never think anything, but to not get attached to those thoughts. To not pick teams and develop BS theories about what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and so on.

The only team you truly pick is your own. And you dig deep and deconstruct everything and figure out all the cause-and-effect relationships. It’s far more satisfying to take your own team to the next league than to sit around discussing the moves of teams far beyond your league, who face challenges that you can’t even conceive of.

So the question to ask myself is this– am I a competitor or a spectator when it comes to my own life? Am I satisfied at the current level that I’m competing at? If I’m not, what should I be doing to improve my own game? As long as I’m unsatisfied with my current performance, I should have a clear plan of ACTION for what I’m going to be doing to fix that. I think the old me used to just try to avoid facing that question altogether, because it made me sad and uncomfortable and upset to realize that I wasn’t the man I pretended to be, that I wished I was. I can now bench press more than that man actually weighed, so fuck that. I’m growing up. I’m doing more.

Lol at me getting psyched up in my own word vomits.

More calmly, though, the point is that I have to face my problems head on. And that it’s my actions that define me, not my theories about myself or others. Any time I find myself theorizing excessively, thinking very hard and long about something subjective, a simple and easy way out is– can I do more? Can I do better? Is there a heavy ass weight I can lift? Is there a blogpost I can ship? Is there some plumbing I could do? And I’ve found this to work even with household stuff– cleaning out the grout in my kitchen and replacing my lamp’s power switch and cleaning out my CPU all made me feel great.


Impress yourself. Earn your own respect.


[1] I know it’s oversimplistic. I don’t want to get too far into de-simplifying it in this vomit. Let’s define winners as people who achieve and/or make progress towards their stated goals, and losers as people who don’t. There’s all sorts of additional complexity involving how you change your goals over time, etc

[2] Although over time winners almost definitely are better at picking out good information. Also I’m reminded of a quote by Plutarch or some old wise guy about how if you truly learn the art of listening, you’ll be able to learn even from fools.

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